The Obama Administration offered a glimpse of their Fiscal Year 2017 budget request with an announcement that outlines plans for full funding of the Land Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).
LWCF, enacted by Congress in 1965, is the principle source of funding for the acquisition of high conservation value lands by the National Parks Service, Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, and Forest Service. The program also provides funds for state and local land conservation and recreation projects. A large portion of these funds are derived from offshore oil and natural gas drilling revenue.
The President’s LWCF budget proposal includes $900 million in funding for conservation projects. This is the fully authorized value of LWCF, which has only been appropriated once in the program’s 50-year history. Past appropriations for the program have averaged around $340 million. The proposal will also pursue permanent reauthorization for LWCF beginning in Fiscal Year 2018.
Conservation projects to be covered by the funds range across the U.S., and include investments in the protection of endangered species habitat in Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area and the enhancement of recreational areas in Idaho and Montana.
The program was set to expire in 2015 but was temporarily reauthorized by Congress in a spending bill passed in December. The permanent reauthorization of LWCF has been introduced in multiple Senate and House bills, including The Energy Policy Modernization Act (S.2012). Introduced in the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources in Sept. 2015, S.2012 includes a restructuring of funding allocations within LWCF. The bill will likely be put to vote on the Senate floor in the coming week.
The President’s entire FY 2017 budget request is expected to be released the week of Feb. 8, 2016. Congress will then review, revise and vote on final bills. For more information on the federal budget process, see TWS’ policy toolkit.
The Wildlife Society is a member of the LWCF Coalition and supports LWCF’s continued use in conserving and enhancing wildlife habitats across the country.
|Lauren McDonald is a policy intern at The Wildlife Society as part of the Government Affairs & Partnership program.|